Wow, NaNoWriMo is done, and WIM is almost coming to a close as well. What a whirlwind this month has been!
For the second CP round, I was interested not in larger comments and suggestions on my story, but in specific feedback on how to polish what I already had. I tend to do this as I get closer to finished, because a wrench thrown in at this stage will send me cartwheeling out of control. Because of that, I carefully hand-picked my CPs and kept the number to 3 to avoid overwhelming myself. My three CPs all know Space Cows, know my writing style, have critiqued for me before, and I’ve critiqued for them before.
I gave all of them the annoying disclaimer that I felt something was off about this Space Cows, but didn’t know what it was, or if it was all in my head.
Oh yes, also Yes, Thuy, Space Cows will be a thing! 😂
(I was a bit swamped this week and sometimes I forget things like replying, or I reply in my head and think I replied in real life and I honestly don’t know if I actually did or not…)
On to editing!
Do you see those 100 comments from Thuy?! Love it. It’s actually because she had track changes on.
After reading and letting the feedback set as normal, I put all the comments into my side of things, and wouldn’t you know it, many of the comments aligned? Even better, some of the fixes that Rebecca mused on as potentially being reasons why I felt something was off here were picked up on by my other two amazingness, and incorporated into their suggestions!
Now, you’ll see that several of the comments are re-written suggestions for improvement, where they’ve literally re-written my words for the fix. This would not work if they were not hand-selected for the very reasons explained above, because that would throw in the wrench I was talking about before. You’ll see that while I didn’t take all of their suggestions and incorporate them, I did many because they work with the story and they DO polish it out!
(Basically, I don’t allow beta readers to rewrite parts of my story, but I DO allow it for my trusted CPs because by the time they are trusted CPs they will fight to protect the soul of my story just as I will fight for theirs.)
So you’ll see the Rebecca felt Cow and Wolf were talking past each other, and then Thuy came in and rewrote to condense and it felt like that fixed it for me. Ariana suggested tension right where Rebecca felt Wolf was being less antagonistic than he could be. Ariana asked me what Cow did with the rock, and hahahaha, wouldn’t you know it, I gave this to an electrical engineer? So Thuy beautifully rewrote with awesome details I was reaching for but couldn’t deliver.
One of the things I talked about with Rebecca regarding both of our pieces was how hard we were finding the 1k cutoff. Now, the final draft is allowed to be any size, but I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the flash fiction and keep it right around 1k. Much of the tension and characterization and internals issues could have easily been fixed with more words, after all. It’s the word count limitation that made those things so much harder to polish. Some parts were commented on for possible trimming, knowing that would likely be necessary.
So after incorporating the feedback that I agreed with after careful thought, I looked at my word count. 1118. Not too bad, not so bad as I was kind of expecting, but still, time to trim. Extraneous information has to go. Sentences that sound good but are too wordy are chopped. Thuy’s beautiful specifics? Distilled to less-specific. Internals that are repeated? No longer. Details that are unimportant? Erased. This is the hard part because I love drowning in rich worlds, but I’m trying to walk this tightrope of just-enough-information.
I really wanted to keep my tie-in to my previous Space Cows story and I am stubborn. After going through and trimming, I hit 1,016. So close! My tie in costs me 19 words. I went back through, looking for any stray words that aren’t strictly necessary. After a lot of wrestling, I think I managed it, while still keeping my tie-in- Woo!!
Time to run it through AutoCrit and listen to it out loud and check for grammar and punctuation. I managed to hit 1k exactly and I am pretty pleased with this story now!
You drop into a marsh. A bellow escapes as you flounder to find footing. Green plants, blue sky—except where thunderclouds are rolling in—and brown dirt surround you. A hill rises from the edge of the marsh, and the clouds above are lit in flashes. You were given a mission: investigate the Beacon and come home. And that’s exactly what you intend to do.
Beside you, your Wolf “partner” struggles, the Matter Transportation Device clamped in his jaws. He goes under, then fights to the surface, ears laid back. Your stomach twists. The Wolves nearly stranded you to be torn apart by monsters, but if he drowns with the Matt, you’ll never get home.
“Climb on my back,” you grumble.
The Wolf’s claws dig into your hide. You try not to flinch. Acting like prey only encourages a Wolf’s cruelty.
The marsh mud sucks at all four hooves as you slog toward the hill and the flashing Beacon. When you finally meet dry land, the Wolf drops to his own paws and shakes himself, and you do likewise. He clutches the Matt in his front paws, his eyes ringed with white. Is he… frightened? No, it must be a trick. After all, he has the Matt. You’re not falling for it.
“Come on, we need to find the Beacon.” You move to pass him.
“We’re stuck here, you stupid Cow.”
You freeze, waiting for the next words to fall from his muzzle, dreading and hating them before they’re even born.
“I hung on to it. But the water… Just look!” He thrusts the Matt in your face. “Do you see any lights?”
No cheerful glow—just a dead metallic box. It’s broken. You stamp the dirt beneath your hooves.
“We can’t get back.” The Wolf’s bitter tones slice at you. “They’re not going to send anyone after us. We had the only working Matt.” He lobs it at you, and you flinch when it hits your sensitive muzzle.
The words dry in your throat. Every Cow knows to stay calm around a Wolf, no matter how much they want to run, to keep their predatory instincts from kicking in. But it’s hard. Once your racing heart and trembling limbs are under control, you pick up the Matt and open the casing. The water has flooded it, shorting the power supply.
“The settlement surely has supplies. Or we can call for help. The Beacon is still out there.” You leave the board exposed and head toward the settlement.
“We’re stuck here!” he shouts, as if you haven’t understood.
You keep a tight lid on the terror. “I’m still going to do my duty. I may be just a stupid Cow, but I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ll find a way home on my own if I have to.”
Or die trying. A Cow on her own is prey waiting to happen. What then of a Cow traveling with a Wolf? The thought makes your cud dry on your tongue. Your instincts scream danger.
The Beacon lights the storm clouds above a settlement on a cliffside, crisp against the tossing ocean. Though rusted by the salt air, the tall metal fence surrounding it glows in the afternoon sun. The gate creaks as a settler opens it, ushering you inside. More fill the space behind him, similar to the monsters from the previous planet. Humanoid. You shiver.
“Thank the Whales, the Wolves are here!” The gatekeeper flaps hairless arms. “And they brought…” He furrows his brow. “…food?”
“Might as well,” the Wolf says with a lolling tongue. “Since I can’t return to my ship.”
The gate clangs shut before you can back away. A snarling wolf is carved on the inside. Dismay slams through you. You are not prey! But the settlers’ eyes face forward, like the Wolf’s. You’re surrounded by predators and predators show no mercy.
“But the Beacon!” you shout, desperate to stall. “You called for help.”
“Yes, we lit it as instructed when the water purifier broke. See?” The person leads you to a large machine—a water desalinator.
The Wolf crowds behind you, flashing teeth. “No need to worry about that now.”
You stamp, whirling to face him. “We came here to fix this.”
“We’ll give you until evening,” the settlers agree.
“I’ll help.” The Wolf gives you a toothy grin. “Since it’s why we’re here.”
Your blood rushes in your ears. You crouch by the machine, pulling off the side panel.
“Oh, too bad,” the Wolf points. The collection basin of the desalinator is rusted through. You have no metal to replace it.
“But the marsh must be fed by a freshwater source, given the smell.” Regardless, there are other ways of getting salt out of water.
This is a trap.
“Good, they can find something to drink to wash you down.” He sniffs at you.
You turn away, trying to still the shivers. Tears well up. You’ll be slaughtered and eaten.
A wire catches your eye. You grab the Matt, shielding it from the Wolf’s view as he pokes around inside the desalinator. Dusk is settling but the sun has dried out the inside. If you can splice in a new power source, you don’t have to be dinner.
“Time’s up. The people are hungry.” The Wolf pats your back.
Using a sharpened rock as a knife, you strip the wires on the Matt and the desalinator. You twist them together to splice them. The Matt lights up.
The Wolf peers over your shoulder. “What are you…
“Not such a stupid Cow.” You jerk the Matt out of his reach. “I’m going home.”
“Let’s go then!” His eyes gleam.
“You were going to let them eat me!”
“Come on, Cow, it was just a joke.” He shrugs with a friendly smile and wagging tail.
You narrow your eyes. “Fine. I have a joke of my own.”
As he opens his mouth, you press the button, Matt’ing safely back up to the ship.
And that’s it! Make sure you check out the other amazing stories from this round!